I turned 27 yesterday. It’s still hard to believe. It really snuck up on me somehow.
At what point do we stop caring about birthdays? I don’t really feel the need to celebrate my birthday anymore. I don’t need or want presents. I don’t need lavish attention or cake with candles. I do still like cards, but I’m okay if the day passes by with little fanfare.
Yesterday was the perfect day. I woke up and took Sadie for a quick walk. I had my coffee in bed while I read my book next to Jim. Then we went downstairs and Jim made pancakes for breakfast. Then I read my book some more. We went for a walk with Sadie around Hartwood Acres because the weather was beautiful, and it was so nice to get outside into the woods and see all the green. When we got home, I read more and finished my book (it was a good book). Then we got ready and met my parents and Josh out for dinner at the Hartwood Restaurant. I had an amazing goat cheese ravioli dish for dinner and a chocolate cream pie for dessert. They did put a candle in it, which was a cute touch, but unnecessary.
Jim and I came home and had another glass of wine before bed. And I fell asleep at the age of 27 next to the husband I adore and the dog I’m obsessed with, in the house that is our own.
See, I don’t have to do anything extravagant to celebrate a birthday. My happiest days are the ones where I get to be with the people I love and I get to relax and spend some time to myself.
I feel like I’ve been rounding up my age to 27 for a while now. I don’t remember saying much that I was 26 years old. I think I said I was “almost 27.” 27 just feels like the age to be in your 20’s. You’re firmly in the upper 20’s, but you’re not yet worried about nearing 30. It feels old enough to be married, buy a house, have a dog. It feels old enough to not be mad or sad that you’re not out partying at 2 a.m. anymore like you used to in college. But it’s young enough that people aren’t badgering you about having kids. It’s still young enough to feel like you’ve got plenty of time to work your way up in your job so it’s okay that you’re not some kind of manager yet. It’s old enough to buy a house, but young enough to still get all your furniture from your in-laws and Craigslist. You’re young enough not to have wrinkles and gray hairs but old enough that you (should be) eating healthy and getting exercise. You’re still young enough that exercise is easy and fun.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why my parents didn’t want to make a big deal about their birthdays. They’d get embarrassed if they got a group of waiters singing a song to them at restaurants. They didn’t want big presents and parties and lots of fuss. As a kid, I thought birthdays were the best. I was innocent enough to think there was always some thing I needed and that presents grew on trees perhaps. And then when you’re an adult and you know the value of things and you have different priorities, it suddenly doesn’t feel like you need anything at all. I feel like the luckiest person in the world and I have everything I need. There is nothing that money could buy that would make me more happy, because the things that make me happy are things that money can’t buy.
The age is probably somewhere between 24 and 26. That’s the age when the number starts to matter less and the parties aren’t important because the priorities take precedent. 21 is important because you can drink. 22 and 23 are important because you’re still trying to establish your work experience in relation to your age. At 24, hopefully you’ve worked long enough, or enough places, that your young age is no longer the deterring factor. And then sometime after that, you grow up. You settle in. You don’t have to fight as hard to defy the ageism stereotypes. You don’t have to care so much about milestones, real or arbitrary. You don’t have to let age define you. At some point in your mid-20’s, you’re just you, living your life. Your life becomes less about the number and more about your experiences.
The milestones you want to keep track of, the ones that really matter, aren’t about your age. You graduate college. You could be 22 or you could be 40. You get married. It doesn’t matter if you’re 26 or 35 if you’ve found the person you love. You have kids. Whether you’re 23 or 33, all that matters is that they’re healthy and happy. You travel. You can be 27 or 47 or 67, but it’s important that you get to see the world.
A birthday is the passing of a year. It’s a marker of time and a way that we can measure how much we’ve grown and how much we’ve learned. But age doesn’t define us. It doesn’t have to come along with pomp and circumstance. It can slide quietly by, if that suits us. It can be a reflection or a celebration or a sigh of relief.
My 27th birthday was exactly what I wanted, and needed, it to be. 26 was amazing, but it’s just a number, and 27 is just a number. This year will be about friends and family and travel. It will be big and fun and meaningful. And maybe next year I’ll add a little festivity, just for fun.